Got Plans: Advice from the Going Out Guide

Jul 17, 2014

Every Thursday, the Going Out Guide staff discusses concerts, happy hours, cheap date ideas, weekend getaways, new exhibits and other ways to have fun in the Washington D.C. area.

Hi everyone. No World Cup. No Bastille Day. No Fort Stevens -- it's all a little quiet around here. (Maybe that's why the GOG staff is all heading out on vacation?) 

Here's our guide to things to do this weekend, including Ice Cream Heaven at Union Market, plus Nightlife Agenda, which includes a party on Del Campo's rooftop and the Wyoming State Society's Rodeo party, which I'm stoked for. (Beers and a mechanical bull? What could possibly go wrong?)

Anyway, let's get started.

Hi, GoGs! I'm going to a late Capital Fringe show in Penn Quarter this weekend. Where in the general area can I find really good cocktails and at least serviceable appetizers around 11:30 or 12:00? Something like Oyamel would be great if it were open later; I'm thinking a bar is going to be the only option. I'm open to anything except Barmini (fantastic but too pricey). Thanks!

The Passenger has some of the best cocktails, plus great bar snacks -- think kimchi-topped half smokes and duck confit nachos. I'm also a fan of the late-night menu at the Partisan: The dough pockets known as tigelle stuffed with spiced meatballs or bologna and cheese, a big plate of bbq pork rinds, or, if you need it, a tangy brussels sprouts salad. (The menu starts at 10, so you're good.) Most snacks run $5-$8.

Looking for a venue where 20 or so of us could not be too crowded. She has requested rooftop/outdoor space near Metro and parking if possible. In DC. Ideally a space that we would not necessarily need to reserve. Thanks so much!

A centrally located rooftop where 20 people can show up without a reservation and not be crowded at all? Your co-worker is asking for a lot. A couple ideas follow, but no matter where you go, you MUST arrive early.

The happy hour at El Centro on 14th Street isn't usually crowded right at 5 p.m.,when you can stop by for $4 margaritas. Georgetown gets more crowded earlier, in my experience. 

I like Donovan House, too, but it can fill up quickly on nice days (like today) and you risk some of your group getting shut out if they show up late. The cocktails and view are worth the risk, though.

There's usually parking on U Street if you get there right after work, so I'd put the Brixton's rooftop out as another option. Decent drink deals, but it only seems to get really popular after 9-10 p.m.

Finally, Hill Country BBQ isn't a rooftop, but it has room for hundreds of people, picnic tables, corn hole and no cover charge. Just keep that in mind.

Dacha's another outdoor space worth checking out. You might not be able to sit together, but it can hold a lot of people.

Hi! I'm taking tomorrow off work for a little staycation and would like to try one of the fancy lunch deals available around town. I've seen the WaPo roundup, but I'm overwhelmed with options - where would you go right now? I'd prefer a non-pasta option. Thanks!

If it was my special lunch, I'd go to Del Campo, Victor Albisu's South American steakhouse near Chinatown. You get a Del Campo sandwich, fried yucca or French fries and a beer -- not to mention the outstanding smoked peanuts, and bread with smoked olive oil -- for $12. Considering the number of times I've paid $12 for a sandwich and a Coke at some greasy downtown deli, I think it's an amazing deal.  


Now, there are fancier lunch options too. For something a little more refined and not pasta, Vidalia's 1990 lunch menu (You guessed it: $19.90) is the way to go. 

Gurus, Have a day (first) date on Saturday, when it looks like it should be pretty nice out. I'm in MD, she in Alexandria, so my thoughts for Virginia-side things like Torpedo Factory, Port City tour, etc., and then a walk around Old Town, or meeting somewhere in DC. Any other good ideas?

Wny not split the difference between MD and VA>?

You could always do the Port City tour or Torpedo Factory early, get something to eat in Old Town (split a pie at Pizzeria Paradiso?), and then take a water taxi over to National Harbor. Stroll around, check out the view from the Capital Wheel, and have a waterfront cocktail at McLoone's Pier House. Then sail back to Old Town and get a nightcap at a pub or a cocktail at the Majestic. 

Fritz, you seem to be thinking this date will go extremely well to fit all of that in. I hope you're right, buddy.

Okay, I'm bad at this, then ... How many hours is a Saturday afternoon day date? I was thinking like 5 or so.

Where's a good place to take the boyfriend's parents out to dinner when they come to town? Last time they really liked Green Pig Bistro...something similar, but in DC?

Since you mentioned Green Pig, I'll assume the entire party are enthusiastic meat-eaters? In which case, you can't go wrong at either The Partisan in Penn Quarter or the new Rural Society, which Sietsema raved about in his First Bite column. (If you think it's likely the parents will be picking up the tab, I'd go for Rural Society.)

What have you heard about the plays at the fringe fest? Any particular standouts?

Yeah, there have been quite a few. I really enjoyed Perfect Liars Club -- a storytelling performance where you have to guess which of four stories is false -- and The Program Assistant, which will probably ring (depressingly, hilariously) true for any recent grads trying to find a job. Other standout from my fellow critics:  “Miss Emma’s Matchmaking Agency for Literary Characters,” where one of Jane Austen's heroines tries to set up Captain Ahab, among others;  “Contrafact of Freedom,”about how our national anthem came to be; and "Hey, Hey LBJ," with first person tales from a Vietnam combat correspondent.

Hey Gurus, the beginning of summer has so far been filled with holidays and visiting family/friends, which is great, but now I'm ready to enjoy my city with a fun Saturday night out. What should we do? New restaurant to try (we eat anything)? Show in town (although nothing too serious)? Cant miss band? We are really up for anything (metro-accessible), just want to put our heels on and have a great time.

Oh wow. If I had to pick five things to do this Saturday night ... 

1. De La Soul's 25th anniversary show at the Howard Theatre, because one of hip-hop's legendary acts still has it.

2. The first Fort Dupont summer concert of the year, a free, all-local lineup with Nappy Riddem, all-around great Christylez Bacon, singer Maimouna Youssef and DJ Jahsonic. Runs from 7 to 9 p.m., so there's still time to go out afterwards. 

3. C.O.W.P.I.E., the Wyoming State Society's annual party that features a mechanical bull riding contest, live country band and all you can eat and drink for $35.

4. Cocktails and dinner at Rural Society. Jose Garces' Argentine steakhouse is all the buzz right now. It's going to be booked, but you can swing by the classy bar for drinks and food. I did that without a reservation last week and had a lot of fun.

5. Fringe, fringe, fringe. Steph recommended a few shows in the answer above this one. I love Fringe, because it's always weird and unique, and it's definitely one of the best ways to spend a summer weekend in D.C. 

Geez, what kind of first dates do you go on?! That sounds like 3 dates worth of activities (tour, dinner, cruise, stroll, Wheel, drinks, sail, nightcap...whew!) Or am I just going on the wrong kind of dates? :)

Maybe I get too bored on dates where you sit and talk for two hours, or just go to Jazz in the Garden. 

Okay, looking back, yeah, that's like two dates worth of stuff, or just one really awesome day. Up to you. (Also, the "cruise" isn't that long, honest.)

It's a pool? Can anyone go? What's the fee? What's the food/drink policy?

Anyone can hang out at the rooftop DNV bar to enjoy the amazing downtown views and have a drink or two  (happy hour with $4 beer and $6 champagne until 7!), but the rooftop pool itself is for guests only.

I've been tasked with organizing a bar crawl this Saturday night for women in their early 30s. They would like to avoid clubs/lounges and prefer divier places with good music. We are having dinner in Dupont so I figure it would be best to walk over to 14th and start at Black Whiskey. Do you have other suggestions on where we should go next?

There's not a lot I'd call divey on 14th Street these days. Black Whiskey, Bar Pilar, Black Cat.

I'd suggest grabbing a cab to Shaw, then doing Southern Efficiency, Right Proper Brewing, All Souls. All friendly to ladies in their 30s, and less pretentious than lounges on 14th.

Undetermined. I don't typically presume first dates will go that long, but it's happened before. Either way, sounds like a hell of a time - just hope the company is good, haha.

Hey, just trying to provide a few options. Good luck.

(If you cut it short, I'd just do Port City -> Torpedo Factory -> Pizzeria Paradiso -> Waterfront.)

I would like to take a scenic train ride this fall but it seems as though this would require a very long drive out into West Virginia to get to the train depot. Are there any closer scenic trains? Many thanks.

Oh, there's no need to go that far. The Walkersville Scenic Railroad is a leisurely ride through the picturesque country around Frederick. It's only around an hour from D.C., and it runs through October. It gets a lot of families, but it's good for all ages.

Hi Gurus! I'm sure you get this a lot, but I'm trying to come up with some places in DC to go for happy hour and dancing afterward for a 30-something's birthday celebration in early August. Any great places we should hit up? We're trying to avoid the 20-something crowd, and ideally they would be places close to one another (one-in-the-same would be awesome!), Metro-accessible, reasonable to no cover charges, and hopefully won't break the bank. Thanks so much and love the chats!

What night, what kind of music, how many people?

I am hoping to visit some of the DC breweries for the first time in the near future. What are some can't miss spots and what's the best way to visit several in one day?

Well, we only have four breweries in D.C. proper, so it's pretty easy to do three (or all) in one Saturday afternoon.

DC Brau is the biggest and most popular, and they also have the most informative tours of the three, in my experience, with the most to see. But I love the tasting room at 3 Stars, and Atlas Brew Works is just a cool place to hang out. 

I'd start you at Atlas' tasting room for a sampler, then it's literally a 10-minute drive to DC Brau, where they do tours at 2 and 3 p.m. (You'll need to arrive earlier, though, as tours fill up.) After that, it's about 15 minutes to 3 Stars.

If you want to do NoVa, that's a while 'nother mash kettle. But I highly recommend a drive out to Purcellville, where you can do Adroit Theory and Corcoran in the same afternoon.

Hi! We just got a dog, and we'd like to take him on an adventure to some Virginia wineries this weekend. It seems like there are many dog-friendly wineries in Delaplane, so we are tentatively planning to go there. Are there any dog-friendly lunch spots you'd recommend, or dog-friendly wineries that serve food? We're also amenable to going to Loudoun County, if that would have more dog-friendly options. Thanks!

From our winery expert Lavanya:

I think they’re probably in the right place with Barrel Oak Winery, which is super pro-dog. Eating out there is a bit tough, though – there’s not really anything. They should pack a picnic – there’s a big hill where everyone sort of hangs out.  The other dog-friendliest place I can think of is Bluemont, which also has food, like soups, etc., if they want to eat there.

Hi, Friends will be staying with us in the MD burbs between DC and Baltimore for the next week. There will be 4 adults and 6 kids age 4 months to 6 years of age. Do you have any suggestions for touristy things to do for this age group. The National Zoo is planned for one day and one other day is to ride the Metro down to the mall but suggestions for what to do at the Mall and what to do other days would be very helpful.

I talked to On Parenting columnist Amy Joyce, and she had these suggestions:

This Saturday is the Baseball Family Festival at the National Portrait Gallery, with appearances by team mascots, baseball-themed crafts, a book reading, baseball-themed scavenger hunts, you name it. 

Saturday is also the Water Lilly Festival at Kennilworth Aquatic Gardens, with all kinds of family-friendly events: tours, face-painting, dance performances, a tea party, etc.

As for the Mall, Air and Space and National Museum of the American Indian always have kids activities, from crafts to learning how to use the Air and Space Museum's telescope.

Please help! My nephews are coming into town and one really would like to see frogs. Due to our other plans, they would need to be somewhere downtown -- I tried to look at the Natural History Museum but doesn't look like there are any there (something like the National Geographic exhibit from years ago would be GREAT), Unfortunately, the zoo is too far, it really needs to be downtown, Also, do you have any suggestions for a Friday lunch near Capitol South. The closer to the Capitol the better (that also serves wine :)) Thanks!

You're in luck (for frogs!)

Amy was recently at the Audubon Society in Chevy Chase with her boys, and reports: 

"There was a group of kids with a naturalist digging up frogs in the pond. I’m not sure if that’s an available activity for all kids, but it’s there for sure. 

Either way, it’s a fun little hike with younger kids." 

As for lunch, I'd suggest either Hank's on the Hill for seafood and wine, Spike Mendelsohn's Bernaise for French bistro dishes and wine, or Sonoma for light American/Italian food (pastas, scallops) and good wine. (That's arranged furthest from the Capitol to the closest.) 

What have you heard about it? Do you think it will be too crowded to enjoy?

I hope not, as I'm looking forward to it. I think the fact that basic tickets only include samples of five of the 10 participating burgers might distribute the lines more evenly. And there's a beer garden if the lines get too long.

But seriously, if you try all 5 burgers with your ticket, that's 16-20 ounces of meat. Serious commitment for a Saturday afternoon.

then Chevy Chase isn't going to work either. I can't think of any place else to see frogs downtown. There used to be some when there was an aquarium in the basement of the Commerce Building, but that closed a while ago. You might be able to find some wild ones near the tidal basin, but I wouldn't count on it.

Sorry, we totally missed that "too far away" bit. Apologies. Since the Frog exhibit at Natural History closed in January, there really aren't any places to see them downtown.

Alright, we need to wrap the chat up for another week. Thanks for all the questions, and enjoy this amazing weather while it lasts. 


Post Point Code is GG2546.

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The Going Out Guide
The Going Out Guide staff are the experts behind The Washington Post's Going Out Guide. They write about restaurants, bars, movies, the arts, special events and visitor attractions, and they're out every night to keep you on top of the D.C. entertainment scene.
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